Michael Hauge, story consultant and best-selling author of Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read and Writing Screenplays That Sell shares his insights for writers.
Q: What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?
A: Writer’s block grows out of fear – of never finishing, of your work not being good enough, of leaving your comfort zone, of putting yourself above others, or of neglecting the other obligations in your life and work. But whatever the fear, I’d try these steps:
Of course you’re afraid – this is tough stuff. So stop asking how to not be afraid, and ask yourself if you’re willing to be afraid.
More writer’s block occurs in your kitchen than in your workspace. Just plunk your ass in front of the computer and the rest will probably take care of itself.
Write as soon as you wake up. Excuses multiply as the day progresses.
If you’ve stared at the blank page for five full minutes, start writing about how you are feelingabout your story. Ramble, meander, repeat yourself, swear and complain about how horrible your work and your life are, but keep writing. New ideas about your story and characters will eventually appear in this pile of verbiage, and when enough do, switch back to your manuscript or screenplay and add them to your work.
Expand your definition of writing. Research is writing. Talking your ideas into a recorder is writing. Drawing doodles of scenes in your story is writing. Even staring at an empty page is writing. So do any of these things when the words aren’t coming. But checking your email is not writing. It all has to be about your story.
When your writing time nears its completion, leave the next story beat unwritten. Jot it down, then start the next day by adding it to your screenplay or manuscript.
Q: What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?
A: For every story you tell, and for every scene in every story you tell, ask these three questions:
“What does my character want?”
“What stands in that character’s way?”
“What terrifies this character emotionally?”
Then, if nothing else comes, simply write this down as plain exposition or on-the-nose dialogue. You can come back and rewrite it later, but at least you’ve identified the key components of the scene or passage. And if you can’t identify these three elements, get rid of the scene. It’s not moving your story forward, and it won’t elicit emotion in your reader.
Q: What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?
A: My father-in-law, Art Arthur, was a screenwriter for almost fifty years. He used to say there are 3 secrets to writing success:
1. The seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.
2. Don’t get it right, get it written.
3. Reject rejection.